Pune: CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL), Pune jointly with Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and several other companies from Pune have joined hands to manufacture useful moulded plastic components from COVID-19 PPE waste. The undertaken pilot project has the potential to scale up and replicate throughout the country to convert PPE waste into useful and safe products. A substantial increase in demand for single use plastic items such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, and so on has been observed since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Across India, more than 200 tons of COVID-19 related waste was generated every day in May 2021. So far, this hazardous PPE waste is incinerated at central waste management (BMWM) facilities. Incineration is energy-intensive and leads to the release of harmful greenhouse gases. CSIR-NCL, RIL and other companies embarked on a mission to develop an end-to-end process for effective recycling of COVID-19 plastic waste to produce value-added plastic products ensuring decontamination of COVID-19 plastic waste, focusing on the conversion of the plastic waste suitable for downstream processing and identification of potential stakeholders / markets for creating value for entire supply-chain.
In a proof-of-concept study, CSIR-NCL team successfully demonstrated the lab-scale manufacture of moulded automotive products from the decontaminated PPE plastic waste (at M/s Niky Precision Engineers, Pune) by leveraging the existing recycling infrastructure available in Indian cities. CSIR-NCL and RIL have now signed an MoU to scale up the production to pilot-scale, laying a path to take the concept to the national level. A pilot scale of 100 Kg in the Pune city area was successfully implemented by collaborating with Pune-based companies, viz. M/s APPL Industries Limited, M/s SKYi Composites, M/s Harsh Deep Agro Products, M/s Urmila Polymers, M/s Jai Hind Autotech Pvt. Ltd., who produced value-added products.
The feed material (PPE kits) was collected and decontaminated by Passco Environmental Solutions, a waste management company located in Pune. CSIR-NCL secured all regulatory approvals needed from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to complete this pilot trial. The technical journey of CSIR-NCL, aided by Reliance and CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP) Dehradun, with funding from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, mainly involved converting the decontaminated PPE waste (mainly comprising PPE suits/overalls) into an easily processable and upcycled agglomerated form (pellets or granules).
It was ensured that the polymer pellets show the right attributes necessary for successful conversion to produce nonfood applications, including high-performance automotive components, said a press release from Reliance Industries. This pilot project can be implemented across India to build a sustainable circular “green” economy that can propel India’s growth in this relatively untapped sector and contribute towards India’s socio-environmental targets.